Tax protestors aren't the only Americans who hate the IRS and the federal income tax. Many tax-paying Americans also hate the income tax system. The IRS hasea rne d the contempt of millions of taxpayers.
I recently took my wife to see Ray Stevens here in Branson (Ray Stevens pays more in taxes in a single
year than I'll probably earn in my entire life). I can't recommend Ray's show (too much bathroom
humor); but Ray did have one particularly good song that we appreciated about the income tax entitled,
"Ten-Percent." Ray Stevens offers up some valid theology in the chorus of his song when he sings:
mistake of believing that my ministry is involved in a form of tax protest. Churches seeking IRS approval, in the form of 501c3 status, has become so commonplace that anyone like myself who speaks out against it runs the risk of being slandered as "anti-government" or a "tax protestor."
While I'm not a tax protestor, and I'm not anti-government (I'm anti-unconstitutional
government), I do take pride in the Reformed "Protestant" traditions of my forefathers. There
are millions of American Christians that identify themselves as "Protestants" who have never
protested anything in their lives. "Protestant" has, by and large, lost its meaning as its
members have abandoned their duty to exhort the culture and call the nation to repentance.
While I routinely protest against the 501c3, my protests have never been with the IRS.
Protests should be directed toward the source of the problem, and the IRS isn't the problem.
The IRS has never required any church to become 501c3, nor has the IRS ever threatened to
tax a church if it didn't become 501c3. The IRS for many years has acknowledged1 that
churches are "automatically tax-exempt" and "automatically qualified" to receive tax-
deductible contributions,2 without ever having to apply for 501c3 status from the IRS. As far
as I'm concerned, that's a big admission on the IRS' part; so my beef isn't with the IRS.
Not only does an occasional taxpaying Christian misconstrue my anti-501c3 stance as
somehow fostering a tax protest movement within the church, many tax protestors have,
likewise, assumed the same. Consequently numerous tax protest leaders have solicited me
to join their movements (I use the plural "movements," rather than the singular because there
is no organized, consolidated tax protest "movement").
Tax protest leaders seem to appreciate much of what I share. They've even occasionally
asked me to speak at their conferences. If a tax protest conference runs over into Sunday,
they'll usually also ask me to preach a sermon that morning. But if they suppose that my
appearance at any of their conferences is a tacit endorsement of their practices, they'd be
dead wrong. I speak at such functions because there's always a lot of lost people at "patriot"
meetings, and my policy is that I will never pass up an opportunity to share the Gospel of the
Lord Jesus Christ with the lost.
One of the few things that I do share in common with contemporary tax protestors is the
insight that the income tax system is fundamentally, inherently and irreparably corrupt. The
modern income tax system is inherently corrupt because it's based upon a Socialistic system
of (in the words of Frederick Bastiat) "legalized plunder." Tax protestors see what most
Americans don't -- the fact that no inherently corrupt system can be "overhauled" or "fixed" or
"reformed." The only remedy is for the income tax system (by "system" I mean not only the
Internal Revenue Code, but also the Internal Revenue Service) to be scrapped, altogether.
"A heavy progressive or graduated income tax" is the second plank of the Communist
Manifesto (crafted by Karl Marx in 1848). The stated agenda of an income tax, according to
the Socialists who perfected it, is the "redistribution" of the people's wealth: "From each
according to his abilities to each according to his needs." The income tax is the tax most-
favored by oppressive, despotic governments to subjugate their citizenry. The income tax
breeds government corruption and is the very lifeblood of tyrannical government.
The Agency of government tasked with collecting and enforcing any corrupt tax will inevitably become corrupt itself. The income tax system has no place in a free nation, and it's for good reason that President Ronald Reagan stated:
The obvious question then is what kind of a "rebellion" was Mr. Reagan speaking of, and
what is the appropriate strategy for "rebelling" against this "utterly unjust" and "fundamentally
I wholeheartedly concurred with Mr. Reagan when he gave his tax rebellion speech in
Williamsburg, Virginia in May, 1983. However, one thing we can safely assume is that Ronald
Reagan was not giving a nod to the methods of the tax protest movement, when he spoke of
a "tax rebellion." I've found very little to agree with in the tactics of tax protest leaders. Their
worldviews are unbiblical and, as such, any solutions they develop will be equally unbiblical.
Tax protestors often presume that I make my living unlicensing churches and, therefore, that
is the extent of my legal expertise. However, the fact of the matter is that I earn my living as a
paralegal and I only work part-time in the ministry (as an unpaid volunteer). One of my legal
specialties is fixing the IRS problems of tax protestors. I know considerably more about the
tax protest movement than most tax protestors know about the tax protest movement. I've
had considerable exposure to tax protestors, and I count myself uniquely qualified to serve
as a cultural commentator on the tax protest subculture.
One of the biggest problems with the modern tax protest movement is the eagerness with
which tax protestors embrace urban legends. There's a never-ending stream of urban
legends that circulate rapidly and efficiently through the tax protest movement, and even
more circulate through it's big brother, the "patriot movement" (aka freedom movement,
sovereignty movement, etc.). I refer to these urban legends as "patriot mythology."
The modern patriot movement advances a plethora of "personal liberty" issues above and
beyond tax protest. These include SSN revocation, driver's license revocation, debt
cancellation, New World Order conspiracies, etc. Like the income tax issue, there's a grain of
truth to be found in many patriot issues. However, taking actions based upon a mereg rain of
truth can produce disastrous results.
This isn't to say that everything that patriots assert is bogus. Indeed, some of the issues that
they've brought to light merit further investigation and discussion. However, experience tells
me that the contemporary tax protest movement is not the paladin we seek for slaying the
income tax dragon, and we'll need to look elsewhere for a champion. The income tax disaster
needs to be addressed, so let's listen to what tax protestors have to say, while we remain
cautious about following their example.
The vast majority of American taxpayers "voluntarily comply" with the federal income tax
motivated largely by IRS intimidation. Americans fear the IRS as much as Russians fear the
KGB; perhaps even more so. Former IRS Revenue Officer Richard Yancey describes the IRS
as "the most frightening agency on the face of the planet!" No nation that calls itself "free"
can truly be free when the people are afraid of their own government.
Fear of the IRS may indeed prompt a high level of "voluntary compliance," but fear never breeds honesty. Most Americans view the IRS as a big bully. Even a child soon figures out how to avoid the bully's repeatedshake down for his lunch money. So it's little wonder that such a large percentage of taxpayers habitually cheat on their taxes. As Will Rogers put it, "The income tax has
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